After the miserable loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Monday night, the Baltimore Ravens were expected to take their frustration out on the Arizona Cardinals. Instead, the frustrated losers of five in a row were the aggressors against the Ravens in the first half.
Nevertheless, after six sleepy quarters, the Ravens finally woke up and played their relentless style of football, handing the Cardinals their 11th straight road loss, 30-27.
An attempt to make sense of the Ravens’ slow start was to assume that the players wore their opponents’ uniforms to celebrate Halloween a day earlier.
The Cardinals constantly pressured Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, which was the root of their problem, as they sacked steady Joe twice, forced him to make bad decisions, make some bad throws and caused turnovers (a fumble and an interception) in the first half.
Coming into Sunday’s contest, the Cardinals had eight takeaways.
Seriously, the characteristics of the Ravens offense is no laughing matter, as no one, especially in Baltimore, wants their tricks or treats early on.
The Ravens went to their strength at the start of the game, as they ran the ball 12 times out of 20 plays. During that stretch, Ravens running back Ray Rice had nine carries for 46 yards, averaging 5.1 on the ground. Rice’s early output was more than what he had for the entire contest against the Jaguars.
Consequently, the Ravens had to attack from the air after being down 24-6 at the half.
In transitional fashion, the Ravens made their adjustments at the start of the second half. The Ravens coaching staff recognized the Cardinals’ pressure from the ends, as Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie was being abused by linebackers Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield, and up the middle from their secondary. The Ravens countered with Flacco being in shotgun formation, exercising some no-huddle for quick passes.
“There’s probably a lot to that. I think that’s fair,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh after the game. “You try to say the right thing. You don’t want to get in there and say the wrong thing. You want to help any way you can. But, it’s more football than anything else. The thing we talked about was what we needed to do, every time we get the ball, we need to score some points.
“It didn’t happen. We didn’t score every time,” he added. “But, our thought needed to be to find a way to score something, even if it was a field goal. Whatever it was. We had to take every drive and make something out of it, if we could, and then we had to get stops. Then, you figure out, x- and o- wise, how you’re going to try and do that.”
Baltimore went down the field on an eight-play drive, capped with a one-yard touchdown run by Rice on their first possession.
The Cardinals had 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to earn an 18-point lead at the half. In a span of 15:05, the Ravens took the lead for the first time of the afternoon with 21 unanswered points of their own to earn a three-point lead.
“I think we react well to the hurry-up,” said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. “I think it can put a defense on their heels a little bit. I think it can wear them out a little bit. It’s tough to rush the passer, rush the passer, really be able to hold up in there and continue to get that good pass rush. I think that was a big part of it, and obviously, within that, guys have to make catches, make some plays.
“When you can get matchups on little corners, little DBs that they (the Cardinals) bring in in nickel [defense], it works out well,” he continued. “We did some simple things, just running flat routes and being able to get those guys the ball and getting four yards here, five yards there.”
The Ravens had multiple opportunities to create a turnover early in the fourth quarter to help put the game on ice. Consisting of a drop interception by linebacker Ray Lewis, an interception from safety Ed Reed (which was called back due to a questionable pass interference call on cornerback Lardarius Webb) and a 4th-and-1 conversion by Cardinals running back Beanie Wells, the Cardinals were able to tie the game at 27 with 8:55 remaining in the game.
“It was a tough call all day today. We fought, and I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but it is what it is,” said Ravens safety Ed Reed. “When you have people out there doing a certain job, you expect them to do it with honesty and make the right calls. But you have to play through it.”
With 1:02 remaining in the game, on 3rd-and-8, Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger sacked Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb for a nine-yard loss at the Cardinals’ 6-yard line.
After a Cardinals punt and a play later from the Cardinals’ 41, Flacco, who completed 31 out of 51 attempts for 336 yards and an interception, finally successfully connected with rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith, after failing several times throughout the afternoon, for a 36-yard hook up, getting to the 5-yard line.
“We (Smith and him) just called out routes,” said Flacco. “They came over and pressed on both sides. We had Torrey on a good matchup, I felt. He did a good job beating him and gave me a good place to throw the ball.”
Rice attempted to earn his fourth touchdown of the day, who finished with 18 catches for 63 yards and three touchdowns, but fell short. Flacco set kicker Billy Cundiff up for a chip-shot, 25-yard field to seal the game as time expired.
The Ravens offense was the story of the game for their play in the second half. Linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had the career day with 10 tackles, was a one-man wrecking crew, as he pressured Kolb and played the run extremely well.
“I was having fun early because sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying,” said Suggs. “Early in the game, I just had to keep laughing and keep our crowd in it. I didn’t want to have them heading to the exits early. They stuck with us though, and that’s why we have the best fans in the world. They stayed with us, we fed off that energy, and I just kept pumping it out there.”
Article via Bleacher Report